Admittedly, this is the Juice Box no one wants to drink. It’s like the equivalent of the Coastal Cooler Capri Sun. No eight year old should have to suffer that abomination in their lunchbox. By the same token, the books that make this short list really shouldn’t have been foisted on to unsuspecting genre fans. Nevertheless, here we are. Unlike our eight year old comparison points, it’s pretty hard to do a lunch room swap with a bad book.
But, this Juice Box Award isn’t for bad reads. No, sir! It’s for books that promised to be great and fell flat on their face. Sometimes that means an average book. Sometimes is just means it isn’t as good as it could be, which was surely the case with last year’s winner (er.. loser?) George R.R. Martin’s A Dance With Dragons. Regardless, onward!
I present the Most Disappointing Books of the Year:
#5) Railsea & Redshirts
Both of these novels clearly fall into the ‘not as good as they could be’ category because neither is particularly bad.… Read the rest
Daniel Polansky’s debut novel, Low Town, was released last year by Doubleday. Owned by Random House, Doubleday publishes mostly mainstream fiction, with a smattering of science fiction and fantasy. Some of their more recent genre work includes David Anthony Durham’s Acacia Trilogy and Graham Joyce’s Some Kind of Fairy Tale. For the most part, they do a reasonably good job of crossing over to the different genres, marking them to the appropriate audience.
David Anthony Durham’s recent covers code perfectly for fans of genre and the George R.R. Martin quotes are fantastic.
With the paperback release of Low Town, not so much.
A quote from the Newark Star-Ledger and cover art that would be more appropriate on a Chuck Palahniuk novel, Doubleday has branded Low Town as literary fiction. If Polansky’s novel was a crime thriller, or historical fantasy, or urban fantasy, or magical realism, I’d probably go along with it.… Read the rest
I was so amped to read Amped. I’m sorry. I couldn’t resist.
In reality, I was moderately interested in Daniel H. Wilson’s follow up to his New York Times bestelling debut Robopocalypse. His first novel was an entertaining page turner that garnered far better press than it rightly deserved, but it demonstrated that Wilson was a capable story teller who would improve in future novels.
With that frame of mind I went into Amped hopeful that it would meet expectation. It did not. I finished it more convinced that Robopocalypse’s success had more to do with the formula (borrowed from World War Z) and marketing push than any inherent quality of the novel itself. It left me wondering whether the definition of a summer read has become wholly reflective of the summer blockbuster film — form over substance, effects over plot.
Wilson’s strength is in the merging of science and reality to create a believable future.… Read the rest
This week I turned my blog into David Anthony Durham central. Why did I do it? In short, because his Acacia Trilogy is one of the best completed series of the last ten years. I’m a huge fan. His books reintroduced me to fantasy. Below are links to my review and a tremendous interview:
Not only did I want to share that with all the people who read this blog, I also wanted to call attention to the fact that Durham and Anchor have reissued the entire series in trade paperback with a blurb from George R.R. Martin. I think the blurb is the main reason for the reissue, but Durham took the opportunity to do some edits, cutting 14,000 words from the first volume. I applaud the effort.
Justin: Some commentators out there, myself not included (obviously), say that War with the Mein didn’t do it for them. It wasn’t until the second book that the series caught them. I wonder if it’s because the first novel is couched in traditional epic high fantasy, where the second and third go to some new places, literally and figuratively. Was starting in the expected and going to the unexpected part of the plan?
Durham: I don’t think that the first book was really couched in traditional epic high fantasy. I do think the first book appeared to be traditional in many aspects. I set up familiar elements in order to subvert them. The benevolent empire of the protagonists isn’t at all benevolent. The invading hordes from the hinterlands are fighting legitimate injustices that pretty much anyone in the empire could agree with.… Read the rest
I first read David Anthony Durham back in 2007 when I came across his novel Pride of Carthage. After finishing it, I felt compelled to peruse his other work and I came across Acacia: The War With the Mein. I was quickly ensnared and I’ve anxiously awaited every novel he’s published since. I read the series conclusion, The Sacred Band, earlier this year and immediately reached out to Durham to see if he’d be interested in coming on to the blog to talk with me. He kindly agreed. Once the interview was done, I realized how much material I had. I decided to make a week of it. Yesterday, I posted my review of the entire series. Today is part one of my interview.
Justin: Thanks for doing this. I’ve been a big fan of the series since 2007 when Acacia: The War With the Mein was first released.
“Of course a thing that could be made into a weapon would be made into a weapon. It did not matter if it was a thing of beauty. It did not matter if their mission was holy and benevolent. It only mattered that The Song could be twisted to serve human greed. If that was so, it was only a measure of time until someone grasped for it.”
- The Sacred Band, David Anthony Durham
That quote stood out to me in the final volume of The Acacia Trilogy. I wouldn’t say it’s the theme of the series distilled down into four lines of prose, but it is pretty representative of one of the many contained there in. On the surface, David Anthony Durham’s trilogy, and first foray into genre fiction, looks like run of the mill epic fantasy. His protagonists are four royal children whose father is struck dead in the opening moments of the first novel, The War With the Main, forcing them to scatter, grow to adulthood, and return to restore peace to the Akaran Kingdom and the Known World.… Read the rest